Displeased by issues hounding the Philippines’ hosting of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an investigation of allegations of “incompetence and corruption” against the organizing committee, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was “displeased” when he learned about the complaints of foreign athletes.
“Let’s put it this way. The President is not pleased of what he’s been hearing about certain snafus, certain delays, certain allegations of athletes not being fed properly, athletes arriving late or not on time delivered to their places of rest or residence,” Panelo said during a chance interview in Busan, South Korea.
“He’s displeased. Ayaw n’ya ‘yun (He doesn’t want that). There were allegations of fraud, ayaw n’ya rin ‘yun (he does not want that either). He wants to investigate that. Hindi uubra sa kanya ang corruption (He does not tolerate corruption),” he added.
The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was hounded by several controversies, ranging from accusations of overpriced materials, not being able to ferry football teams from other countries to their respective hotels, mixed-up press cards and inadequate breakfast for athletes, to unfinished sporting venues.
Several critics, including Sen. Franklin Drilon, asked why Phisgoc was allowed to handle the organizing of the SEA Games alone, despite corruption issues that Duterte himself mentioned in July.
Malacañang sought an investigation, but Cayetano was spared from blame.
Panelo on Wednesday said the probe would cover all organizers, including Cayetano.
“Siguro kasama na lahat ‘yon kasi when you investigate a particular body kasama na lahat ‘yung kung sino involved doon (Perhaps the investigation will cover everything because when you investigate a particular body, it will include everyone involved),” he said.
The Office of the President might conduct the investigation that would also include the construction of a controversial cauldron that costs at least P55 million, he added.
Asked whether heads would roll because of the mess, Panelo said, “Sabi nga ni Presidente kung talagang merong ano, eh ‘di (The President said if there is [corruption], they should be accountable.”
The Palace official also said that Congress was free to conduct its own probe of the Sea Games mess.“I think it’s the job of the Senate and the House [of Representatives] to investigate any allegation of corruption, or anomaly, or irregularity. Trabaho nila ‘yun (That’s their job),” Panelo said.
But Panelo also admitted that government could not do anything to private citizens who volunteered to help organize the athletic event.
The Palace official said Games organizers should learn from their mistakes. Phisgoc, he added, should also accept the help being offered by several agencies.
“Mukhang (it seems) they were not able to do their assigned task for themselves,” Panelo said.
“Gaya ng sinabi ko (Just like what I said), the host country will apologize for the inconvenience. Those are unintentional. But for the organizers, ang mensahe natin sa kanila eh (our message to them), these things could have been properly done, organized and that could have been avoided. Parang ‘yung problema ba ‘yun eh, maliit na bagay, hindi ko maintinduhan bakit nangyayari (These are small issues. I don’t understand why they happened),” he added.
On Wednesday, Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham Tolentino said problems on transportation and accommodations were being addressed by the Philippine Sports Commission and Phisgoc.
“All these problems have solutions, and they are being addressed and being solved,” Tolentino said. “Let’s just focus on our athletes. With this, my statement will be not only for us to ‘we win as one’ but ‘we stand as one’ in hosting this SEA Games.”
WITH JOSEF RAMOS